When you want to streamline processes and reduce cost it is typical to look for things that you can stop doing. As processes and requirements change over the years, there may be activities that were once key that now add little value. When identified, the first response is ‘just stop doing it’. This might be the answer but to make sure you don’t have unintended consequences there are three things that should be addressed:
First, identify the overall process that the activity in part of and develop a Critical to Excellence tree to define those elements and outcomes that are critical to quality, delivery and cost. Once they are identified, evaluate if stopping the proposed activity will impact any of the elements. Depending on the outcome, you may need to revisit eliminating the step or you might have to identify other activities that can assure the right outcome. If all is clear, proceed to the second item below.
Second, you should complete a Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) on the step being eliminated. This will requite that you answer the question, “if I eliminate this step, what could go wrong, and do I have processes in place to prevent failure?” The FMEA will require that you evaluate the probability of failure, impact of failure and detection of failure. Based on the risk, actions may need to be taken. If all risk is low, proceed to the third item below.
Third, any change will require a thorough evaluation of cultural impact. This means that if you have consistently enforced the need for the step that is now being eliminated, people need to understand why it is now OK to eliminate it. If this is not done well, two things could happen. People might resist the change based on their cultural norms, or they could see this as a signal that their process steps are outdated so following the rest of the steps may not be that important.
The take away from this discussion is that process change that eliminates a step or activity is not as easy as you think. Done well it can be a productivity booster. Not done well, it can turn into a “Show Stopper”.